Hall of Fame
When Friends ended in 2004, producers spun off Joey (Matt LeBlanc) into his own show, Joey, on which Joey, now pushing 40, goes to Hollywood to make it as an actor. That show ran for two years; the other spinoff, Gunther! never aired. In it, Gunther (James Michael Tyler), the bleach-buzzed barista who pined for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), quits his job the Central Perk coffee bar to open a new coffeehouse in the suburb of Westchester, where he heard Rachel had moved after marrying Ross. Plots were to revolve around Gunther’s coffeehouse facing foreclosure when a Starbucks moves in next door, as well as the romantic tension between Gunther and his co-worker Rochelle (portrayed by Jessica Aniston).
In the early ‘90s, Baywatch was the most popular TV show in the world. Star David Hasselhoff made a spinoff called Baywatch Nights, in which he and another lifeguard (Gregory Alan Williams) investigated supernatural and paranormal mysteries at night, after they were done lifeguarding for the day. That spinoff did well enough for Hasselhoff to try a spinoff of Baywatch Nights called Baywatch Nights Nights. The premise of that one: Hasselhoff and Williams, after an eight-hour shift on the beach, and then another eight-hour shift of investigating, work the night shift at Angela’s, an all-night diner populated with lonesome truckers, plucky runaways, and small-time crooks. Hasselhoff and Williams’s characters offered up coffee, “the best grits in Ventura County,” and assistance in solving diners’ personal problems. In order to account for the fact that Hasselhoff’s character worked 24 hours a day, writers on Baywatch, Baywatch Nights, and Baywatch Nights Nights were ordered to pepper scripts with references to Mitch’s recently diagnosed disease that prevents him from sleeping; Williams’s Garner Ellerbee was said to be heavily addicted to Maxwell House–brand coffee, with which producers lined up a lucrative product placement deal, which fell through when the pilot wasn’t picked up.
In 1991 Simpsons producers added British singer and comedian Tracey Ullman to the voice cast, giving her the job of vocalizing more than a dozen characters, including a boozy actress, an obnoxious talent agent, and a teenage girl. They proved so popular that Fox spun off Ullman’s characters into a live-action showcase called The Tracey Ullman Show.
Hey, you know that show Girls that people who are hipsters but don’t know that they’re hipsters love, and the people who are very obviously hipsters but pretend like they’re not hipsters hate, the one on HBO about twenty-somethings bumming around New York trying to figure their lives out while they live them? Okay, did you see that episode where the main character Hannah (Lena Dunham) goes home to visit her quiet Michigan hometown, and they showed a very graphic scene of her parents having sex in the shower, until the dad (Peter Scolari, from Bosom Buddies and Newhart) knocks his head on the wall and passes out? Yeah, it’s about them. Every week they have healthy, older people married sexual relations and Peter Scolari hilariously hits himself in the head on something and passes out, be it the headboard of a bed at a charming bed and breakfast, or the side of a van at a Boz Scaggs outdoor summer concert.
The funniest characters on both Cheers and its spinoff Frasier were the never-seen wives of two major characters: Vera, barfly Norm’s wife; and Maris, Dr. Niles Crane’s wife. On this rare double spinoff, Vera and Maris meet in an online chat room for neglected spouses and agree to leave their husbands in Seattle and Boston, respectively, and start a new life in the geographic midpoint between those cities: Alexandria, Minnesota. Casting directors were perplexed as to how to cast the two characters who had been described in hilarious, improbable ways. The solution was that they didn’t cast anybody at all. Maris, still hysterical and impossibly thin, was only spoken of, derisively, by her co-workers at an Alexandria department store. Vera’s new boyfriend, George, complained about Vera and her nagging to his friends at a bar.